THE SITUATION OF HOUSING
The significant importance of the building and construction sector is evidenced in the fact that every individual or business or services of diverse kinds must have a shelter and a location in the environment.
The real economy sector anchors more on the success of building development success. The environment will not be aesthetically attractive in commanding reasonable value without massive investment on building infrastructure.
In spite of its importance to the economy, building and construction sector still remains under-developed in Nigeria.
For example, residential building problems result from a complex interdependency of elements such as material, social, political and economic factors, with interaction and activities in other sectors of the economy. However, the factors militating against housing provision in Nigeria include: difficulty in land acquisition, lack of housing finance, high cost of building materials, inadequacies of the existing land policy, poor infrastructure (both physical and financial infrastructures) among others.
A recent study of housing situation in Nigeria puts existing housing stock at 23 per 1000 inhabitant. Home prices and rents, on the other hand, have grown ahead of general inflation.
Making matters worse, the composition of homes for sale and rent on the market has been shifting inexorably towards very expensive homes. Today, there is a wide gap between demand for and supply of housing units. For instance, experts argue that there is a yawning gap between the need for urban housing (and housing generally in the country) and the available stock of dwelling units and that this gap is still expanding since the number of units constructed annually falls short of the growth in households.
Over 72 million Nigerians are in need of a decent accommodation.
Meeting the Housing Challenge
At the moment, Nigeria has a housing deficit burden of 17 million units which would require about N35 trillion (about $ 22 billion US) to fund. According to World Bank estimates, Nigeria needs to produce about 850,000 housing units annually for the next 20 years to be able to close the housing gap in the country (at an average cost of about 4.12 million Naira, ie. about $ 25,750 US, per housing unit). These figures of course represent the situation as of today, which will keep evolving. Housing is faced with both qualitative and quantitative deficiencies. To curb the housing crisis, various national housing policies (1991, 1996, 2006 and 2012) and programmes have been put up by the national government.
NATIONAL HOUSING POLICY
Evolution of Housing Policies
Government started to intervene in the housing sector in 1928, during the Bubonic Plague of 1928–1929 (NHP, 1991). The Second National Development Plan led to the establishment of Housing Corporations at the regional level and this marked the beginning of the establishment of middle class residential housing estates in the country.
However, the activities of the Corporations were restricted mainly to the regional capitals.
It was the Third National Development Plan (1975-1980) that first recognized housing as a sector of the economy. The Federal Government aims at achieving a significant increase in supply and brings relief especially to the low-income groups who are the most affected by the current shortage (FRN, 1975).
The period 1979-1983 witnessed a massive housing development programme by the new civilian administration that came on board on October 1, 1979.
Establishment of a National Housing Policy
The need to have a National Housing Policy was first conceived by the Federal Government on the 26th April, 1985. In February 1991, approximately six years after the inauguration of the Committee to look into the policy, the first National Housing Policy was launched with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all Nigerians owned or had access to decent housing accommodation at affordable cost by the year 2000. The main objective of the policy was to make the private sector the main vehicle for the organisation and delivery of housing products and services. The 1991 housing policy estimated that 700,000 housing units are to be built each year if housing deficit is to be cancelled.
The inadequacy of the National Housing Policy (1991) to meet current challenges and economic trends and to guide development in the sector is manifested in the significant shortfall in housing provision. A Social Housing Bill was initiated in 2012 to cater for housing needs of the low-income, no-income, disadvantaged and underprivileged groups. The central government realised that effective housing delivery can only be achieved within the framework of a well-articulated National Housing Policy that sets out the broad guidelines, goals, objectives and strategies for Housing in Nigeria, which is home-grown and driven by the people. This underpins the development of a revised National Housing Policy document in 2012. The policy aims at revitalising the housing sector to enable it serve as a catalytic instrument for ensuring rapid and effective socio-economic development. The priority areas of the policy which require specific intervention to ensure sustainable housing delivery include: land for housing; housing finance; building materials; construction methods; maintenance; construction costs, and data and statistics on housing, among others.
It has been observed that about sixty (60) per cent of the total housing expenditure goes for the purchase of building materials. Although housing delivery efforts have evidently been inhibited by prohibitive costs of building materials, this problem cannot be reasonably and reliably overcome by merely resorting to the use of locally available materials without due considerations to the applicable initiative, the cost of processing and sustainability of the local materials.
In Nigeria, the building industry, through different micro-economic policies, has been forced to look inward for local sourcing of their raw materials.
Unfortunately, the failure of building materials manufacturers to increase their levels of value added substantially has made them vulnerable to continuous currency depreciation and the inflationary pressures which characterises the liberalisation policy. Thus, the price of galvanised corrugated iron sheet (bundle of 20 sheets) rose from N620 in 1989 to N4, 200 in 1996, and further rose to N8,000 and N11,000 in 2005 and 2013 respectively.
A bag of Portland cement (50kg) for moulding blocks – a key wall material, for example, which cost N40.45 in 1990, rose to N120 in 1993; rose further to N430 in 1995 and N620 in 1999 and presently fluctuates between N1, 600 and N1, 650. The hike in the prices of building materials coupled with low purchasing power of the low-income groups have constrained the poorest to use inappropriate building materials.
Enhancing the Use of Local Materials
The rising cost trend of modern construction materials is one of the impediments to the growth of housing in Nigeria. An important component of a sustainable building is the material efficiency. Correct selection of building materials should be performed by taking into account their complete life time and by choosing products with the minimal environmental impacts. Ideally, the combination of all environmental, economic and social factors can give a clear description of a material, and thus helps in a decision-making process regarding the selection of the materials suitable for buildings.
The goals of sustainable housing provision are to decrease the environmental costs incurred by inadequate constructive systems and solutions, minimising the impacts on natural resources, and improving users’ comfort.
Achieving sustainability in housing provision requires major societal changes, restructuring of institutions and management approaches. The government can also
facilitate the acquisition of building materials, with particular preference to locally manufactured ones. Production of indigenous building materials by private investors should be given logistic and material support by government.
In many developing countries, the need for locally manufactured building materials can hardly be overemphasized because of the imbalance between the demands for housing and expensive conventional building materials. Modern building materials such as cement, steel, aluminium and timber have found extensive application in the construction industry. These materials have greatly contributed to the rising cost of building because of their cost of production, transportation, maintenance, etc.
Indigenous materials should be more widely used as lower-cost alternatives to conventional or imported materials if construction costs are to come down.
The most obvious structural application of indigenous materials is the use of compressed laterite bricks as an alternative to concrete blocks.
In fact, studies have revealed that structural costs make up an estimated 22% of the overall cost of a finished house. Cost reduction from using compressed laterite bricks are significant.
With the chronic high cost of cement in Nigeria, green alternatives have been well explored as substitute binders or cement extenders in construction materials such as block and concrete. These low cost recycled or waste materials include industrial fly ash, rice husk, and other agricultural wastes, all of which reduce the cost of construction without sacrificing strength or quality.
DESIGN AND STANDARDS
The Importance of Design Options
Structural design of a building involves the determination of the various types, sizes and locations of structural elements namely: foundations, columns, beams and slabs, and also the amounts of steel, which can safely combine with concrete to sustain the loads of the building – where reinforced concrete is the material being used; or the selection of suitable structural steel sections and their connections – where steel is used. The same applies when timber is used. The types, sizes and locations can best be utilised by adhering to uniform regulations and standards.
Until 2006, Nigeria was without uniform regulations, guidelines and standards for the design, construction and operation/maintenance of buildings.
The building construction industry became an all-comers field, patronizing non-professionals and utilizing untested and uncertified materials and components. This, in turn, resulted into structural failure and incessant collapse of buildings, fire out breaks infernos and other disasters. The built environment became unsustainable, and some towns and cities lacked plans.
In view of these, the National Council on Housing and Urban Development instituted the process of evolving a National Building Code which sought to proffer solutions to the hazardous trends in the building construction industry.
The Nigeria Building Code was put in place in 2006. The need to evolve a National Building Code arose from the following conditions of Nigerian cities and environment:
• Unplanned nature of significant parts of Nigerian towns;
• Incessant collapse of buildings, infernos, built environment abuses, etc;
• Dearth of referenced design standards for professionals;
• Use of non-professionals and quacks;
• Use of fake and untested products and materials;
• Lack of adequate regulations and sanctions to punish offenders.
The code provided the minimum standards for building predesign, design, construction and post-construction with a view to ensuring quality, safety and proficiency in the building industry. The code has since been accorded a legal status in the country.
What has remained an enormous task is the enforcement and wide application of the code throughout the country. Also, the building code is based essentially on foreign codes, some of which may not have direct relevance to the Nigerian environment.
Professionals in the building industry are, therefore, encouraged to devise and make use of the most appropriate code suited to local environment. Building codes need to take into consideration the fact that over 70 per cent of Nigerians are low-income earners (FGN, 1991), while about the same proportion is believed to be below poverty line (UNDP, 1997). This is vital to enable self-help housing to be sustained.
Building designs, codes and building materials should take cognizance of the socioeconomic condition of majority of Nigerians, if the informal private sector, which is in fact the main source of housing production is to be enabled and housing stock increased. Thus, because of a combination of poor individual savings and cost of building materials, some approved buildings may take several years to commence and to complete. As rightly stated in the National Housing Policy (2012), government should adopt functional design standards that will facilitate cost reduction, affordability, acceptability and sustainability and which will respond to the cultural and regional peculiarities of potential users.
INNOVATIVE DESIGNS AND TECHNIQUES
Potentials of Industrialised Construction Techniques
Innovative building technologies for low cost housing are not restricted to alternative materials alone. Good design has always been valued by those who appreciate architecture. Today its value is recognised also as a practical means of achieving a wide range of social, economic and environmental goals. High rise construction has not yet become the norm in Nigeria whereas it is the accepted solution for land availability and congestion issues in Asia. The dominant form of housing construction in Nigeria is still two-story.
Building up, not out, can help address the chronic shortage of land in chronically crowded areas such as Lagos. Some innovative Nigerian developers are adopting affordable housing designs based on concepts proven in markets such as Hong Kong. However, low cost housing designs should be localized for the Nigerian context as well.
Innovative construction processes and techniques can be of considerable help in lowering the cost of construction. Dry (industrialised) construction has been
addressed as the most frequently used alternative technique worldwide, but it has scarcely been used in Nigeria. Instead of a building being fully constructed on site, components are industrially manufactured and then assembled on site, accelerating the pace of construction.
Assembly is rapid, quality is consistent, and fittings and fixtures such as plumbing and wiring can be pre-installed or installed in pre-assembled units.
Role of Government
Government can promote use of innovative building technologies and indigenous materials through procurement policies, rules, and regulations. Government is the largest single investor in fixed assets in Nigeria, and the public sector has direct influence over the source and composition of materials procured for use in its construction projects. Public projects can demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative solutions and take some of the risk out of private sector introduction of localized solutions.
HOUSING CONSTRUCTION AND AFFORDABILITY
In the early periods, shelter in Nigeria was easily affordable as building materials were sourced from man’s immediate environment at affordable costs. Nigeria can boast Africa’s largest construction market and the world’s fastest growing construction sector.
Building is also the Nigerian economy’s second fastest growing sector in 2012 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2013) – second only to telecoms.
The housing stock that does exist in Nigeria is expensive when compared to local household incomes, primarily due to excessively high demand, and the cost of new construction is high by world standards.
There are multiple drivers of high housing prices. Land is expensive and construction costs – the sum of materials and labour – are high.
Nigeria’s underdeveloped and uncompetitive manufacturing sector gives the imported materials the edge in an open market, and at least 50% of construction materials which make up some 60% of the cost of construction, are imported.
The huge housing deficit, demonstrated by the problem of affordability, should be approached from both the supply and demand ends. The “top down” approach is to stimulate demand through improving availability of, and access to, mortgage financing.
However, improved mortgage financing mechanisms, will not solve the problem of the low income earners. Hence, “bottom up” approach does hold considerable promise. In this regard, supply can be stimulated by lowering the cost of constructing housing units, which expands availability.
In most government circles, difficulty in land acquisition has been considered as the greatest factor militating against housing provision. However, it is argued that housing finance is the most important factor in that people in the rural areas acquire traditional land and build on those lands. The construction might take a longer period to complete because finance is not available.
Affordable housing development must be profitable or it won’t happen. The investment proposition must be made attractive to housing developers in purely financial terms.
This is a sustainable, systemic solution that works no matter what else happens in the housing finance market.
LAND FOR HOUSING
Land Use Decree
The first effort to control the use of land was made in 1914 when Ordinance No. 9 of 1914 was enacted. The Ordinance Empowered Government to acquire land compulsorily for public purposes, regardless of whether such land was occupied or not.
With the enactment of the Land Use Decree (LUD) of 1978, unregistered land, including large tracts of customary land, was nationalized – in the name of social justice, equitable access to land and prevention of speculation. The Land Use Act (Hereinafter called “the Act’) was incorporated into the 1979 Constitution and retained in the 1999 Constitution.
As a result of land nationalization, all land is vested in the state governments, and thus, direct transfer of land by individual property owners or land owning communities became illegal. In other words, land can only be acquired legally from the government.
Land Use Act
The Land Use Act was intended to facilitate availability of urban and rural land for development. It stipulates that private developers must not acquire more than half a hectare for a project.
Almost immediately after its promulgation, calls for the review of Land Use Act 1978 were made. An Eight-Member Committee was inaugurated on 2nd April, 2009 to examine the Land Use Act and proffer recommendations.
Relevant amendments to the existing ACT may need to be considered, for the expectations of the National Housing Policy to be fully met. Land and reform process are by nature both social and economic.
They reflect wide and divergent socio-economic interests of individual, families and communities. The ultimate expectation is to ensure sustainable socio-economic growth and development anchored on secure land tenure system and effective land titling.
PROSPECTS OF THE HOUSING SECTOR
The housing sector has the potential to generate employment, increase productivity, raise standard of living and alleviate poverty. It also has the capacity to reduce crime rate, insurrections, militancy, and terrorism and substantially address wealth distribution as well as security concerns. It is able to achieve this because investment in housing affects all facets of our life through its multiplier effect on economic development through forward linkages to the financial markets and backward linkages to land, building materials, tools, furniture and Labour markets.
This labour force consists of all professionals in the built environment (such as Land Surveyors, Town Planners, Architects, Quantity Surveyors, Builders and Engineers) as well as skilled and unskilled labour namely: Bricklayers, Plumbers, Carpenters, Welders, Painters, Electricians, Suppliers of build- ing materials, Block moulders, Security men, Drivers, Horticulturists, Gardeners, etc.
Taking the construction of a medium-sized (2/3 bedrooms) bungalow as an example, it is capable of directly creating employment for an average of 76 workers. The number goes up significantly when the forward and backward linkages are factored into the process.
Therefore, for a 1000 housing units scheme of two bedroom bungalows, up to 76,000 workers will be engaged for a period of between 12-18 months (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2012).
Globalisation also brings about opportunities for the practitioners in the building construction industry. There is larger market due to involvement of international
finance. Foreign Direct investment on projects leads to increase in construction demand.
Competition between foreign firms enhances value for money of projects in the host country. With globalisation, cross-fertilisation of ideas and innovations is enhanced.
Possibility for technology transfer and development of local firms increase through application of information technology among indigenous companies and professionals.